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Power

Disney+ reaches 86.8 million paying subscribers and the price will go up in March

Disney is still committed to theatrical release windows, but execs signaled that could change.

Disney+ reaches 86.8 million paying subscribers and the price will go up in March

Star will be available as part of Disney+ in Western Europe, Canada and New Zealand starting in February.

Image: Disney

Disney's streaming service continues to grow at a rapid pace: The streaming service now has 86.8 million paying subscribers, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced at the company's annual investor day on Thursday. Disney also announced a new Star-branded streaming service that is being integrated into Disney+ in some territories, and a slight price increase: Disney+ will cost $7.99, up from $6.99, starting next March. Pricing in other territories will also increase.

Star will be available as part of Disney+ in Western Europe, Canada and New Zealand starting in February. Star will offer a number of Disney shows and movies currently available to U.S. audiences on Hulu; consumers will have to unlock the content because it includes R-rated titles and other content that stands out from the family-friendly Disney+ fare.

Star won't be part of Disney+ everywhere: The company will be making a standalone Star+ service available in Latin America. Disney is adopting the brand from India, where it acquired Hotstar last year, and used it as a key driver for Disney+ adoption. One-third of all Disney+ subscribers are currently located in India, said Disney International DTC Chairman Rebecca Campbell: "Our launches around the world have been a key factor to subscriber growth to date."

Disney executives also used the event to give investors an update on the company's other streaming services. Hulu now has 38.8 million subscribers, including 4 million who pay for the company's live TV service. ESPN+ reached 11.5 million subscribers by early December.

This puts Disney years ahead of its own forecasts for its direct-to-consumer businesses. When Disney first announced plans to launch Disney+, the company predicted that it would reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by 2024. The company had planned to reach 40 million to 60 million subscribers for Hulu by 2024, as well as 8 million to 12 million for ESPN+. On Thursday, Disney updated its Disney+ guidance; the company is now expecting the service to have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.

The latest number drop also means that Disney+ added more than 13 million subscribers over the past two months. Disney executives revealed last month that the service had reached 73.7 million subscribers on Oct. 3, which marked the end of its fiscal fourth quarter.

Disney executives said Thursday that the company was prioritizing its streaming services over other areas of its business going forward. As part of this strategy, Disney committed to the release of a number of original Marvel, "Star Wars" and Disney/Pixar series exclusively on Disney+ over the coming years. In addition, Disney will release 15 live action and animated Disney and Pixar feature films on the service.

However, Disney stopped short of a day-and-date movie release strategy like the one Warner Bros. plans to implement in 2021. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced last week that the studio would be releasing all of its movies on HBO Max on the day of their theater premiere — an announcement that caught theater chains like AMC by surprise.

Disney, on the other hand, is still nominally committed to the theatrical window, with some exceptions; the company will release the live-action movie "Raya and the Last Dragon" as a paid premium title on Disney+ when it reaches theaters next March, much like it did with "Mulan" last summer.

Disney media and entertainment distribution chairman Kareem Daniel signaled that the company could adopt similar models for other titles down the road. The company had the ability to "quickly reevaluate" its release strategy, Daniel said, adding that it would ultimately do what was best for consumers.

Update: This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. PT to include more information about guidance and pricing.

Power

Yes, GameStop is a content moderation issue for Reddit

The same tools that can be used to build mass movements can be used by bad actors to manipulate the masses later on. Consider Reddit warned.

WallStreetBets' behavior may not be illegal. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem for Reddit.

Image: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The Redditors who are driving up the cost of GameStop stock just to pwn the hedge funds that bet on its demise may not be breaking the law. But this show of force by the subreddit r/WallStreetBets still represents a new and uncharted front in the evolution of content moderation on social media platforms.

In a statement to Protocol, a Reddit spokesperson said the company's site-wide policies "prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transactions. We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Power

It chased fraudsters. Now, Pindrop wants to simplify streaming.

The security startup has struck a partnership with TiVo to personalize voice search.

Pindrop is partnering with TiVo to bring its voice authentication technology to smart TVs and streaming devices.

Photo: Scott Eells/Getty Images

Chicken Man was trying to be clever.

Calling up banks to trick unsuspecting customer service agents, the scam artist would always play a recording of chickens in the background to mask his voice. Security experts at Pindrop, a voice authentication startup used by major financial institutions to screen 1.1 billion calls last year, got such a kick out of his efforts that they even named a conference room after him. However, Chicken Man couldn't defeat Pindrop's technology, and ultimately helped the company prepare for a new challenge: a typical family's living room.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Power

What TV remotes tell us about power struggles in streaming

TV remote controls are a major battlefield in the TV wars, which are fought one branded button at a time.

LG's 2021 smart TV remote control features a total of three buttons for voice control.

Image: LG

Don't touch that dial: As TV manufacturers are unveiling their 2021 models at this year's virtual CES, they're also giving us a first look at the remote controls that will be shipping with those big, shiny and smart TV sets.

There were a few surprises. LG's remotes come with built-in NFC to transfer videos from mobile devices to the TV, and Samsung's remotes incorporate solar cells that are meant to reduce battery waste. The new crop of 2021 TV remotes also perfectly encapsulates the conflicts and power struggles in the TV industry, from streaming services vying for attention to voice assistant platforms' fierce competition.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

Power

Roku is becoming the most powerful company in streaming

A growing user base will give it even more power in content negotiations.

Roku's emerging as one of the streaming war's biggest winners.

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

Roku's bet on smart TVs is paying off: Seven years after the company first began licensing its operating system to TV manufacturers, it has become a market leader in North America. Roku and its hardware partners sold more smart TVs in the U.S. in 2020 than competitors like Samsung, LG and Vizio, according to data from the NPD Group released by Roku on Friday.

Roku TVs had a 38% market share in the U.S. and a 31% market share in Canada, according to NPD's data. Roku also announced earlier this week that it had ended 2020 with 51.2 million active accounts, adding around 14 million accounts over the past 12 months. Altogether, consumers streamed 58.7 billion hours of entertainment through their Roku devices in 2020, according to a news release.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

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